Since "The Wicked + The Divine" revealed that Laura had survived Ananke's attack, fans have had one big question on their minds: how did she survive? After months of teasing, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie give us all the details in "The Wicked + The Divine" #20, though they're careful to advance the plot at the same time.
It's easy to stop a comic, jump back in time and give answers to a dangling mystery, but it requires much more effort to continue to move the overall storyline forward at the same time -- yet that's exactly what happens here. Gillen's script uses Laura's attempt to recruit Cassandra and the other two Norns to her side as an reason to finally show what really went down on the day of her death, all while revealing a bit more about Baphomet.
The flashback to Laura's ascension and prompt death wouldn't have worked quite so well if the end result wasn't so pleasing. Gillen plays loose and fast with the events of "The Wicked + The Divine" #11, and -- in doing so -- casts Baphomet in a much better light. Laura's alliance with him makes much more sense now that it's in context, even as it makes Ananke an even worse person than we've seen up until now. It's the little bits of information that really make this flashback intriguing, though. The revelation that Ananke told Inanna about how killing one Pantheon member can extend the lifespan of another hints strongly that she's covertly told all of the members this tidbit, not just Baphomet and Woden. In doing so, it more or less locks in what most readers have surely suspected: that Ananke wants the Pantheon to attack one another. (Presumably, once the Pantheon is whittled down to a final few, Ananke can then snatch up their life and live another 90 years before she creates a new Pantheon to begin the game again.) In short, it's satisfying, it answers questions and it also gears up for what promises to be an explosive next chapter.
McKelvie's art is excellent as always, with clean, thin ink lines and gorgeously expressive faces. The moment where Urdr is enveloped by Persephone's song is a great example; just look at how Cassandra shifts from amusement, to surprise, to a scared sort of ecstasy in just a few panels, based solely by her facial expression and the tilt of her head. It's really well rendered and that's no surprise.
Matthew Wilson's work also deserves special attention this month; his colors are strong on all sorts of titles, and that continues in the way he shifts his coloring style for the flashback sequence in "The Wicked + The Divine" #20, which is well done without drawing attention to itself. It's a little weathered and blotchy but never overly so, and I love how it evokes the feel of both old comics printing and faded books without becoming overt or over the top. It would have been easy to go all the way with comics color dots scattered across the page, but he doesn't go there. It's still different-looking, though, even as he's not afraid to go for really bright colors as needed, like the blood splattered on Ananke during the massacre in Laura's yard.
"The Wicked + The Divine" #20 rewrites its own history and makes it even more intriguing and satisfying. That's no small feat, and Gillen and McKelvie remind us here that they've got a lot of tricks up their sleeves. I can't wait to find out more.